Yesterday, as I write this, we had split sermons in Portland and both of them had some striking similarities in their approach that let me know that both speakers were motivated by their own (understandable) concerns about the moral bleakness of our times. The first message in particular was striking as it sought to demonstrate the hardness of the hearts of people, but both messages were a clear warning shot to the audience to prepare for the times that we find ourselves in. In that sense, they were close to my own concerns about the importance of being prepared for the likelihood of increased hostility towards biblical Christianity and biblical law and those who are vocal in supporting both.
When I tend to think of Atonement, admittedly most of my attention is paid to the positive side of day, namely the symbolism of sin and Satan being put away from physical and spiritual Israel and reconciliation of God with His people that results. That said it is well worth considering the other side of the picture. There are two sides to Atonement, just as there are two sides to Trumpets. I have discussed at some length the two faces of Jesus’ return as symbolized by the Feast of Trumpets, where the promised return of the Messiah and the establishment of his rule over earth is sought by some but feared by far more, alas. We find a similar picture with regards to Atonement. There are certainly a great many people who view the thought of being (coercively) reconciled to God as being a very terrible thing. It is the goal of a great many people to escape any feeling that one is under God’s authority, and the reality of a God that wants a close relationship with a humanity that is at best schizoid, and usually less favorable, to such intimacy is quite unpleasant to many people and will remain so up to the point in which it becomes an inescapable reality.
It is easy to think of the plan of God that is expressed through the Holy Days through the perspective of believers and not necessarily through the eyes of humanity at large (to say nothing of even larger concerns beyond humanity). The response of mankind to God has never been entirely straightforward. Adam and Eve tried to hide in the garden, Cain blamed God for punishing him more than he could bear when he was treated far more generously than his wickedness deserved after murdering his godly brother in cold blood. Israel was positively terrified at the thought that the powerful God who protected them wanted a close relationship with them. The mood of contemporary times is not too dissimilar from this. While there are certainly people who relish the thought of a God who desires a relationship with them, there are a great many people who find that thought to be terrifying and unpleasant. It is worth considering not only why that is the case, but how it is that such people are likely to react to those whose life and whose professions of faith indicate a desire to be close to a being whose laws and whose ways inspire such intense loathing and horror among the wicked and wayward. Jesus Christ reminds us Himself in the Gospel of John that people will react towards believers the way they think of Himself and of His Father. That is not always a pleasant thing to think about, but it is always worth considering and pondering and reflecting on.